My Sermon Preparation Process

How I Use iPhone Apps to Study The Bible and Prepare to Speak

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I share the following workflow for three reasons. The first is that I get a lot of requests about how I prepare my messages, and people seem genuinely helped when I explain my methods. The second is that it speaks to study in general; not everyone is a pastor or teacher, but everyone, especially Christians, should be students of scripture and of life.

The third is that I believe I’m in the cross-over generation from print Bibles to digital Bibles, at least in leading and developing first world nations. This is important. I grew up reading my Gideon hotel-stolen NKJV until it needed rebinding, and my leather-bound NIV Rainbow Study Bible. But as I traveled more (specifically flying), the sheer weight and size of my Bibles and notebooks became an impediment. As the iPhone, and then iPad made it easier to chose how I could pack, my study habits also started to change. They became more efficient, and therefore more powerful.

Superior tools allow a craftsman to do better work. The generation behind me often finds digital sterile and cold, some might even say “un-anointed.” But the generation coming after me needs to be even more immersed in the written Word. I’m sure there may have been similar despondency when people could actually bring a Bible into their home for the first time. “But how will we know what it means if the priest isn’t here to teach us?” Or how about the glaring hurdle of having to learn how to read?

The point is, if there are new tools available to us that proliferate the accessibility of scripture and allow us to understand more than ever before, we need to champion them, if nothing more than for the sake of those coming after us.

When preparing a sermon for a church service, I first have to begin where I want to end: my audience (their needs and contextual appetites), my time frame (if I’m at New Life, we have four services each with a 20-25 minute window for the message; if I’m at EDEN school in France, I look at 3-hour blocks), and obviously my goal (what I want them leaving with). Without these, I tend to ramble, over prepare, and think more about what I want to say than what God wants to say. Remember, constraints can either limit you or serve you—the choice is entirely yours.

All of my messages begin (and mostly end) on my iPhone. It’s always with me, so convenience is key. It’s also the place I do my largest amount of Bible reading. I use four different apps for different reasons.

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Bible by YouVersion: This is the easiest and simplest app to read from for me. The social connectivity attributes are nice, but not really the reason I’m there. When I need to copy and paste scriptures, this app places them in my clipboard with the reference in parentheses at the bottom. I have it loaded with ESV, NKJV, NIV, KJV and NLT.

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PocketSword by CrossWire: This is the mojo, the magic sauce Bible app for me. I use it for one thing: Greek and Hebrew (Strongs modules) in the KJV (the only version they appear in). When I want to research and break down the words (something all good teachers and preachers need to be in the practice of), PocketSword is my go-to app.

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Lumina by Bible Studies Foundation: This NET translation of the Bible comes hyperlinked with 60,000 translation notes created by 25 translation scholars from Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. Great for digging a little deeper into those hard-to-understand passages.

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Bible+ by Olive Tree: I tend to make most of my in-Bible notes and highlights in this app as it “feels” the most like reading my favorite print Bibles. I typically read out of the ESV here. Pasting copied sections strips out the references, so if I want to grab something I like, I jump back to YouVersion.

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The other reading app I use most (paired beside Evernote, which I’ll hit next) is Kindle for iOS. In here I’m gleaning from whatever non-fiction or essays (PDFs) I’ve downloaded. I’m a firm believer that you don’t have enough time to extract everything out of the Bible that you need, so you better eat from the hands of others who’ve used their entire lives to share something worth digesting.

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Since I’m one of those preachers who believes that everything needs to be rooted and end up in the written Word, most all of my ideas launch out of verses that speak to my life experiences, world happenings and what I believe God is trying to say to people (my audience, in particular).

As a result, when I’m reading in one of my Bible apps, I’m bound to open Evernote within moments. Evernote is my catch-all of choice. From pics and drawings to links and syncing, it’s my jam, and arguably the best on the market.

I have an “Academics” stack that contains most all of my more heady content, and within, my “Messages” notebook. I allow this notebook to be very fluid. It not only contains finished content, but also “content in process.” Or as my Dad uses in his three ring binders, his “Sermons Working” tab.

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Here’s a shot from a message I preached last Sunday at L’Eglise Sans Frontiers in Longuyon, France:

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When I’m traveling or under time constraints, I preach right out of Evernote from my iPad or iPhone. But if I have time, there’s one extra step that I take. Fair warning: this is for geeks, nerds, designers and people with any level of OCD.

I import my content from Evernote into InDesign to create a good looking PDF.

I learned from designer Nathan Davis to value the added step of creating a beautiful looking PDF as it has a way of internalizing the content more thoroughly. This added process, while sometimes time consuming, is a great way of embedding the message deeper into my gut where it moves from notes I have to read verbatim to a message I can proclaim intuitively. And when I need to transition from teaching to preaching while onstage, this key component is essential.

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My father, Peter, taught (and challenged) me to love scripture. And he still prepares his messages using his wonderful leather-bound Bible and 8″ three-ring notebooks filled with his handwriting. What he passed on, however, we’re not his methods, but his love for God’s Word. Regardless of how you learn, study, preach or teach, make sure that you’re more focused on imparting than on your process: few people will remember how you did it, but everyone will remember what you did.

ch:

Loss Judging

In the arena of business, I’ve met a lot of people who start off conversations by asking future employees or other entrepreneurs how much money they’ve earned. The discussion could include additional possessions, like cars, boats and houses, as if these are medals awarded for valor on the field of capitalist battle.

But asking someone how much money they made doesn’t give you an accurate picture of the whole story. So I prefer another question.

“How much money have you lost?”

Knowing how much money someone has lost not only reveals to me how much net worth they might have, but also the level of risk that they’re willing to live with. Further, if someone has lost a considerable amount of money, or has endured numerous life-failures, and yet they’re still sitting in front of me as a successful person, that tells me a great deal about their individual fortitude and personal character. They’re willing to put things on the line, pay the price if they go wrong, and work themselves out of the hole.

I call this loss judging.

Losing money, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, is never fun. It’s not something we like to brag about either. Who would? There’s certainly something to be said for steering clear of people who habitually tank institutions, organizations or themselves. But when considering a new hire or partnership, assuming the person has something to bring to the table, knowing what they’ve had to go through to get where they are helps paint a more clear picture of who they are.

The same assessment can also hold true in other aspects of life. Much of the time we write off people who’ve made poor decisions, finding themselves at the bottom of the social ladder. How many times have we passed homeless people who actually have degrees in a highly prestigious fields? And yet we give jobs to young 20-something’s fresh out of college, with no experience whatsoever, mind you, and a mountain of debt.

I judge someone who’s lost a loved one—as a different example—as someone who knows how to endure grief. They’ve had to stare mortality in the face and move on, most often at great expense. For those who’ve lost family “out of time,” meaning a son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter, I have even more respect.

Perfect track records can tell you a lot about people, sure. But loss judging not only tells you who a person is, but who’ve they’ve fought not to be. It tells you they’re still in the game. That matters.

Not all loss is bad. And not all gains are good. Our job as leaders is to try and perceive the value of people sitting across from us so we all can move forward in strength. The more scars a person carries, the less your team may have to suffer.

ch:

En France: Update

Jennifer and I’ve had a wonderful time here in northern France for the last several days. In the mornings I’ve been teaching the students at EDEN discipleship school, followed by various activities in the afternoons, and nights of worship in the evenings.

I’ve been lecturing on redefining the gospel “according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:2), and its resulting impact on the function of evangelism. The discussions with the students have been wonderfully inspiring, and I’m excited to see them unleashed on local villages later in the week as we find creative ways to demonstrate sacrificial love personified.

As always, it’s not the places that we visit that leave a lasting impact on us, but the people we meet. Here are some of their faces.

Follow the pics here and here.

Beaucoup d’amour,

ch:

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Fashion Review: Vere Sandals

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Fashion Review?

I know. A bit tongue-in-cheek for those that know my wife dresses me. Out of sheer social necessity. But sandals? That’s something I know a thing or two about. Review, here I come.

I discovered Vere Sandals last week. They liked a vintage photo I posted on Instagram of my father-in-law in Letchworth State Park from the ’70s. Intrigued, I clicked on their profile and saw cool sandals-in-process pics. And then a pic of what looked a lot like the Finger Lakes. As a guy who grew up in the beautiful wine-country region on central NY, I can spot a tree-speckled horizon of waterfront property a mile away. Sure enough, their company location read “Geneva, NY.”

Wait, wait. Good looking sandals, hand made in Geneva, NY? And no, Geneva, NY isn’t code for some NYC burrow filled with migrant workers.

But they’re probably expensive.

So I jumped on their website and immediately went searching for a price point.

$34 for foamies, $54 for leathers.

Get out.

That’s as much, if not cheaper than what I pay for my Reefs (two pair annually).

OK, but they probably feel like crap.

Why am I so jaded?

Only one way to overcome this consumer bias. So I bought a pair of Men’s Louie Sandals in black and blue, size 10. They arrived at my PO Box a few days later.

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The sparse packaging was cool, and reemphasized the slogan I’d seen on their sight: “Made here. Made better.” Another personal touch was the hand written note from Mike. Not sure who Mike is, but he cared enough to just not stuff a receipt in the padded envelope. Nice touch.

I’m a smell guy, so the scent of newly pressed foam and needle-point-nylon wafted out of the envelope. My designer eye scanned the lines for imperfections, thinking somehow that handmade meant shoddy. Wrong. From the laser engraved heel emblem to the flawless trim lines, these beauties were well executed. Even the bright blue Vere logo on the sandal strap was understated but purposeful.

I happened to be on our sail boat in port (#1000Islands), so what better time to test them out? I flicked off my trusty-dusty Reefs from last season, and eased on the new Veres.

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First impressions were of pulling on a new glove. Fairly tight, but by no means uncomfortable. I forgot that I was coming from well-worn Reefs with a solid synthetic strap. The Veres have a woven strap that seemed to expand slightly with my foot.

I won’t lie, the tight fit scared me. Then I started thinking maybe I should’ve purchased 11s as the 10s left little room behind the heel or in front of the toe. The only problem was that they felt good. Really good.

I took a stroll down our dock, immediately feeling the subtle support built into the multilayers of foam. This was different. I also tend to walk slightly pigeon toed, so my heels wear to the inside of a sandal; but looking down, I noticed the sandal was staying right in line with my awkward foot-angle.

With a few passes in our marina, I started to wonder if I really needed all the extra real estate I always purchase with my Reefs. Because these sandals felt a lot less like sandals, and more like…

…my foot.

But with comfort built in.

In fact, they fit so well, I could actually feel that my right foot was bigger than the left (which it is). Where the left strap felt perfect, the right strap felt a little too tight. And for the first 24 hours of wearing them, I felt a slight rub on the inside of my right foot. It was annoying, but I reminded myself that: a) I’d come front a different style sandal, and b) they hadn’t broken in yet.

I posted a quick pic on Instagram, and a few minutes later @veresandals was talking back. More nice.

I stopped by a friend’s house in Rochester, NY yesterday. He immediately noticed the new treads and asked, “May I?” I acquiesced, and the moment his foot went in (also a size 10), he looked up surprised. “They feel great!”

“I know,” I replied with a smile. “They’re Veres. And they’re made an hour from you.”

The most starling Vere discovery, however, came after a full day of use. I was sitting on the couch talking with Jenny when I scratched my foot. A second later, I wiped my nose (come on, you all do stuff like this too). But something was missing.

The horrid foot-stink.

I was literally so shocked (remember, I’m a smell guy), I buried my nose in my toes. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I looked over at my Reefs by the front door and could practically smell the cow manure stench they give off after a day’s use. Granted, it could be because the Veres are new; I half expect them to stink by week’s end. But every pair of Reefs I’ve ever purchased smelled the first day.

By the end of my second day, the right side strap-rub was all but gone. And that’s when I had to make the big decision. Do I take them to France with me or not? What footwear you bring overseas is a big deal if you’re a frequent traveler. It can often make or break your trip. Jenny was packing my suit case and saw me deliberating. “Take the ones that don’t smell,” she said.

And I did.

I’m sitting on the plane heading overseas wearing my Veres and packing my Merrel shoes. The deal is sealed.

My next pair of sandals will be Veres. And the pair after that. If they keep making great products, employing my neighbors, and valuing their materials usage (including disposal) like they do, I can’t imagine buying anything else.

Can’t wait to try their leather sandals—that’s next.

If you buy some, tell them Christopher sent you. I don’t get a thing from it, I just like being personable with a company that treats me personally. Then come back here and share your story.

Tread well,

ch:

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UPDATE: In the time it took me to publish this post, Vere got back to me via Instagram about why my feet don’t smell. Classy.

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En France

Jennifer and I leave for France in the morning. While most of our francophone focus has been in Switzerland over recent years, France is where it all began. We’re thrilled to be back with our French family and honored to spend ten days imparting into the amazing discipleship students currently enrolled in EDEN. See you on the flip side.

ch:

Measure What You Ingest

Can you recount ten notable headlines of news articles that you’ve read over the last thirty days?

Probably not.

Don’t worry, neither can I.

But can you recall a point that moved you in a book from the last ten years?

You probably can.

That’s because reading intentional long-form works tend to have a far more lasting effect on our lives than reading any of the day’s gossip columns. If this is true for me as I suspect it is for you, it means that we must be more deliberate than ever before about what we’re ingesting on a regular basis.

Making behavior decisions in the present based on what we know will help us in the future is the very essence of wise judgement.

Here are a few things I do to make sure I’m consuming content that I know helps and not dilutes my perspective:

Use YouTube Videos as Podcasts. Whatever your hobby or profession is, there’s probably someone online who’s said something that you need to know. And while podcasts are plentiful, YouTube trends higher on people’s scope. So I stock pile recommendations that people send me, most notable sermons, tutorials or songs, and play them through my headphones when I have down time, especially during travel. The key here it that you don’t always need to see it to receive it. Hearing them talk is just as essential to the process of learning, and often allows us to retain more information in certain contexts.

Stay Addicted, Just Change The Drug. If you find yourself addicted to reading materials on your mobile device, then leverage your new addiction, don’t despise it. This means putting your Kindle app right next to your favorite news aggregate app. Or better yet, place the pop-culture apps further back in your screen pages and keep your Kindle/iBooks app up front. This visual reminder helps promote long-form works of value while keeping the dreaded pop-web-surfing monster at bay.

Value Authentic Communication First. If you’re a Christian, and you’re tempted to read your email or check social media first, make sure that your Bible app is close. I’d much rather hear what God has to say to me to start my day than what people do. Emails are important and, to an extent, so is social media; they’re just not the most important. It’s the myriad of other voices in my email and social media accounts that tend to side track me. Kick things off right: hear from God first.

What ways have you disciplined yourself to intentionally digest wholesome content while skirting the frivolous?

New good habits are hard to form, but they become just as powerful as old bad ones. Only more so: because they help instead of hinder you.

ch:

Order

Life is built on a sequence of events played out over time.

I can’t buy my next guitar until I sell my present guitar. Which I just did.

(Enjoy, Mark R.)

I couldn’t write this post until I got here to Hawaii. Between the build up to Easter, the launching of our North Campus, and leading worship and speaking at Redline Conference, I haven’t had anything more to give a public. This post was conditional upon my last “posting” of service to another audience.

All this to say, I’m simply reminded that we can’t do the next thing unless we finish the present thing.

The next thing sounds wonderful and exciting. It’s a distant horizon, an unopened gift beneath the Christmas tree.

The present thing is familiar.

Overly familiar.

It’s old.

And not the vintage, old-timey old. I mean nasty old. The “dear lord, I’m so sick of this and I just want it to end” kind of old that demands a high level of something to tolerate.

Of…

Of endurance? Patience? Stamina? Fortitude?

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. (Hebrews 10:36 NLT)

The next thing becomes the sweetest thing only when the present thing is treated faithfully.

Said differently with some verbose alliteration, don’t rob your pending promise of its pleasure by prematurely parting with your present plan.

Stay with it, whatever you’re doing today. There is a very real reward on its way.

I’m off to dive on a plane wreck in O’ahu. Yes, rewards are worth being patient for.

ch:

Selling My Gibson Les Paul Custom

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Gibson Les Paul Custom Black Beauty ’54 Reissue 1993 Black

***SOLD***

Guitar Specs

Asking Price: $2,699.00
Condition: Very good
Make: Gibson
Model: Les Paul Custom Black Beauty ’54 Reissue
Finish: Black
Year: 1993
Made In: United States

Yup. I’m parting with one of my favorite guitars, hoping she finds a new home.

History

I’m the third owner of this Gibson, given to me in 2002 while on tour. The man who gave it to me purchased it in an estate sale where it sat in someone’s attic—presumably since its creation, as it was in mint condition. I do not have any paper work on the guitar, only email correspondence from Gibson confirming its serial number, model and manufacture date.

Condition

She’s been used on four of my records and a few US tours (no international travel), so there are four notable cosmetic issues I tried to capture in the photographs: 1.) A small nick below the bridge. 2.) Some nicks on the backside of the headstock (corner). 3.) Some clouding on the back, due to wear against soft clothing and moisture. 4.) Pick markings in strum zone (I tried to turn the guitar into the light so these could be seen—a little difficult to since the guitar is black).

Everything on this guitar is stock, with no damage to pickups, wiring, knobs, zero markers, or selector switch. Frets, perfling, body, neck and head are all in great condition; nothing I can think of. Action is dialed in tight, and with the ’50′s style chunky neck, she’s a dream to play.

The case has the most wear. The handle was losing integrity when I was given the guitar, and broke a few months after. I removed the damaged leather covering of one side (now showing its black plastic core), and re-riveted the flange plate to the case. There are some scuffs on the bottom (pictured). While the interior is in great condition, the cover has some fraying (pictured) where it rests on the tuning heads (from the string ends).

Extras

I’m selling her with strap locks and the strap (pictured). If you’re familiar with the weight of this model, you’ll know why I kept the padded strap with this guitar.

•••

Ask any questions you like. Excited to see this Black Beauty get a new home and more use. As the man who gave this one to me said, “Guitars are meant to make music, not sit in glass cases. Play it.”

•••

Accepted Payment Methods

• Paypal
• Cash
• Check
• Money order
• Credit cards
• Bank wire

Be honest, as that’s how I’ll be.

Shipping Policy

Available for local pickup from Watertown, NY
Ships from Watertown, NY
$50.00 to United States
$100.00+ to Everywhere Else

I’ll box and stuff this guitar and case personally. If you want international shipping, let me know—I’ll need to calculate it for you. Be prepared for customs declaration and duties on your end.

ch:

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How Do They Get So Much Accomplished?

Aside from trying to answer my children on why I have more hair on my chest that I do on top of my head, one of the questions people ask me the most is, “How do you manage to do all that you do?”

While I’m always honored that my conduct is worth asking about, the question has a few inherent flaws. One of those is assuming that I’m faithful to all the things I need to get done. For every one thing someone sees, there are dozens more that need attention. And I carry that reverently, as everything worth doing has a person on the other side of it.

But with regard to the question itself, we need to make sure we break it down more accurately.

Reading It Right

Don’t confuse productivity with capacity and support.

It’s dangerous to compare ourselves to others. But analyzing peoples methods can often be thought-provoking, informative and convicting. So it’s worth investigating when you’re able to rub shoulders with someone whom you admire.

How Much Can You Carry?

It’s important to recognize that some people are born with a higher natural capacity to produce things than others. They have certain gifts and natural dispositions that lend to high output lifestyles. My senior pastor, Kirk Gilchrist, has a natural gift of leadership. I try and emulate it as best I can, but what I have to work for, he has naturally.

You can work toward having a greater natural capacity but, ultimately, capacity has to do with how you’re put together.

The greatest thing you can do to increase your capacity is allow yourself to be stretched. And this isn’t exactly a warm-fuzzy process. It will test the limits of your patience, stamina, stress thresholds, memory and relationships. This doesn’t mean you take on fifty things, just the next thing. This means that you’ll operate within your own natural capacity, not someone else’s, and then look to the next step that makes you uncomfortable, not the next thirty steps.

Who’s On Their Team?

Very often, we see what’s attributed to one person when in reality it was created by many people.

Most people who produce a lot have amazing support systems in place. Movies are great examples of this. The main actor or director usually gets the red carpet treatment. But sit through the credits of the next film you enjoy, and really think through all the faces that go with each of those names.

These key supporters allow producers to offer more than what they’re able to do on their own. This is a quality of leadership, and should not be confused with someone’s natural ability to create or carry something. One of the only reasons I’m able to appear to do all that I do is because of those who’ve partnered with me. Accordingly, it’s become of one of my personal goals to shower them with as much praise and recognition as I can. They deserve it, and so much more.

Be a Voracious Learner

The best that we can do is glean from people’s habits and try to apply them to ourselves where possible.

What time people get up and go to sleep, how they treat their bodies and what feed their spirits, what they’re reading, how often they take breaks, interact with others, deal with stress, they lead their teams, take criticism, delegate, craft, adhere to timelines and engage in the creative process are all examples of things we can learn regardless of our natural capacities or current support structures.

Forget productivity.

Monitor your capacity and honor your supporters.

ch:

Guitars For Glory: Guatemala Documentary Short

Guitars For Glory Documentary: San Cristobal Verapaz, Guatemala from Sprig Music on Vimeo.

•••

Giving stuff away is amazing. Way better than getting something yourself. (It’s almost like Jesus knew what he was talking about).

Jennifer and I had the honor of representing Guitars For Glory during our recent trip to Guatemala last month. This meant surprising three people with brand new guitars. We made sure the cameras were rolling, and managed to produce something we’re all proud of. (Thank you, Sprig Music).

Sure, who wouldn’t like a free guitar?

But what the documentary doesn’t show is all the back-story behind the recipients. Like how Rudy’s father abandoned his family for the US, and Rudy was left to be provider for his four siblings and mother; today, he’s a pillar in his family and his church. Or Roger, who’s given himself fully to educating children, and makes in one year what I make in three weeks. Then there’s Willy, who’s always wanted to lead people in worship on guitar, but knew it’d be impossible, seeing as how it’d take him and his entire family over a decade to save up enough combined money to buy one.

The stories are real. The tears are real. Because the people are real.

And that’s the power we have as being part of the world’s wealthiest people.

Please watch the video. Then thoughtfully consider three things:

1.) Giving to Guitars For Glory so they can continue to spread the message of hope in Jesus through music.

2.) Sponsor a child with Inn Ministries, our hosting organization in Guatemala. I can’t say enough about these people. They’re the real deal, and you’re having a daily impact on children when you give toward their education.

3.) Let me know what you think—about all this. I’d love to hear.

You were born to rock. So get to it.

ch:

Are You Blessed? Or Are You Grateful?

“This new car is such a blessing.”

“Finally closed on the house. Feeling blessed.”

“Just got back from a mission trip. Realizing how blessed we are here in this country.”

On the surface, the phrase seems harmless. Faithful even. Why wouldn’t I want to give God the glory for everything I have? Isn’t that the right thing to do?

No.

Read Scott Dannemiller’s [convicting] full story here. Then let me know what you think. What you perceive is a blessing may actually be the burden that you need to steward on behalf of others.

God is not for the underdog, he’s for the faithful.

ch:

Building Memories

This week, we’re hosting Douglas Gresham and Meg Sutherland at Sprig Studios. Doug is a long-time friend, and famed adopted-son of C.S. Lewis; and he’s also Meg’s Executive Producer for a potential record deal we’re working on.

Needless to say, the whole experience has been nostalgic and inspiring. Meg’s music is filled with the “divine melancholy” that Tolkien was famous for capturing; and spending any time with Doug’s larger-than-life persona is always a treat. His stories are captivating, and to hear him reminisce of growing up with Jack is nothing short of spellbinding.

But in the midst of the revelry, I’m deeply aware of the new memories we’re forming together—stories, I hope, that my children will tell of with great fondness.

Seek to live your life today in such a way that your great grandchildren will whisper about your happenings with wonder. Honor those around you, and build a legacy with the integrity of consistent action.

ch:

Pictures from my Instagram feed:

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A Feeling Better Update

As reader Venaril so aptly put, I’d rather deal with a physical injury than be ill. Montezuma has not been good to me over the last 3 days. But some rice water and my first solid night’s sleep in 14-days finally did the trick. (All the prayers certainly had something to do with it too).

(To make rice water, boil two handfulls of rice in 3 cups of water for 10-15 minutes, strain, cool, and then drink).

Despite needing to make bathroom runs every 30-90 minutes, I’ve managed to make great headway on finishing Sprig Studios the last few days since returning from Guatemala; if I didn’t have a looming deadline, I’d have posted more about the trip (which I plan to by the end of next week). CS Lewis’ adopted son, Doug Gresham, is flying in on Monday with a new artist we’re signing to Sprig Records. Very exciting!

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